Reynolds Square in Savannah Georgia
Nestled within Savannah’s central business district is Reynolds Square, a small pocket of green space with so much its history that it packs quite the punch. Located on Abercorn Street, Reynolds Square (like many other squares in Savannah) has undergone a name change. Located on Abercorn Street, Reynolds Square was laid out in 1734 and originally called the Lower New Square by Savannah’s founder, James Oglethorpe; later it was bequeathed its present name after Georgia’s first British-Colonial governor, John Reynolds.
Reynolds had arrived in Savannah in 1754, after the Trustees’ had given the colony to the Crown. Unfortunately, Reynolds would prove to be single-handedly the least liked colonial governor ever to be had in Georgia. He lacked any and all political talent; and, when placed in juxtaposition with a horde of colonists who had grown used to doing things their way, Reynolds’ rather forceful style of order proved to be distasteful and untrustworthy. It is said that the "celebration of Reynold’s arrival to the city was only outmatched by the celebration of his departure.” He would ultimately be recalled to England in August 1756 after a series o troublesome disputes with the colonists, although he was not formerly succeeded (or booted out) until 1758.
Nevertheless, the Square was named in his honor during the four years of his operation in Savannah. (So we can assume that somebody must have liked the man.)
Interesting Facts About Reynolds Square:
- This Square was once the center for colonial government. The House of Assembly was once erected here, and it was where the first reading of the Declaration of Independence took place in all of Georgia.
- In 1791, a dance was given in George Washington’s honor right next to the Square—unfortunately, the particular building has been lost to time and has since been demolished.
Savannah as the Silky City?
It was not destined to be, although not for a lack of trying. During the early colonization period, the square was actually the site of a Filature, where silk was meant to be manufactured. The Crown had taken over the rather enormous expense of bringing silk worms from China, through Italy, and all the way to the New World. There had been hope that Savannah could be the British-Colonies’ center for silk production, but this simply wasn’t feasible. Savannah was humid and wet, and the tough-as-nails weather made it near impossible to make silk production into a successful source of profit for the colonists, or the Crown.
(Anyone else wondering where the silk worms went after they realized the silk production venture was unattainable?) The old site, which was later used as a city hall, would have been located on Abercorn Street, between Bryan and Congress Streets.
Attractions on Reynolds Square
Sunday School in Savannah
Positioned directly in the center of Reynolds Square is a stature commemorating the Reverend John Wesley, the “father” of Methodism in America. A native Englishman, Welsey traveled to Savannah in 1735 for one purpose: to help spread the word of Christianity. His mission would last until 1738, but during his time in Savannah he truly worked to spread God’s message. He became one of the first rectors of Savannah’s Christ Church, and he founded the first Sunday School in America.
The statue itself is meant to replicate Wesley during his moments of evangelizing the Native Americans. Wesley often tended to preach outside when he lead services for Native Americans, much to the frustration of church elders who believed that the Gospel should only be preached in the church. The exact location of the statue within Reynolds Square allegedly matches where the Reverend Wesley’s house once stood.
The Olde Pink House
Today, The Olde Pink House (23 Abercorn Street) is one of the most famous and most-visited restaurants in all of Savannah. It’s not every day that you can eat in an 18th-century Georgian mansion, after all.
Built in 1771 for James Habersham, this Georgian-style building is one of the few structures that escaped the fire of 1796 (as over 400 buildings burned down to the ground, it is surprising the property remained untouched). Habersham’s ancestors had been one of Savannah’s founding-family members; Habersham himself was one of the most successful cotton merchants during this period.
The property would only remain a place of residence until 1812. Thereafter it became a commercial center, first as the Planter’s Bank and then later as the First State Bank of Georgia. By the early 20th century, however, the building was in grave disrepair and it faced the fate of demolition until Alida Harper stepped in. She restored the property and opened the building as a tea room.
Nicknamed the Olde Pink House because of its standout pink-colored stucco, the restaurant is certainly one of the most well-known in the city. Try out the blue crab-stuffed grouper dinner, and don’t forget to head downstairs after your meal. Tucked beneath the ground level is a cellar tavern which is open for cocktails on a nightly basis.
And if you happen to notice something slightly . . . otherworldly while you’re in the tavern, don’t be too alarmed! As legend goes, James Habersham reportedly hanged himself in the basement in 1799, though he never quite left. His spirit is known to wander around his old home.**
Dinner and a show—what more could you want?
The Oliver Sturgis House
Seated at 27 Abercorn Street, the Oliver Sturgis House was constructed in 1813. Its original owner, Oliver Sturgis, had been involved in the planning of the first cross-Atlantic steamboat passage aboard the SS Steamship Savannah. The voyage was actually planned in Sturgis’ home, a grand Federal-style mansion.
Over the years, additions were added to the home, including an octagonal-shaped room overlooking the garden (ca. 1819) and a third floor (ca. 1835). Today, the home is closed to the public as it is owned by Morris Multimedia, Inc.
Don’t let that stop you! Right next door is the Oliver-Sturgis House’s twin. Originally built for Benjamin Burroughs, the space is now the property for The Planters' Inn.
This early 20th century Lucas Theatre was built in 1921 for Colonel Arthur Lucas, a well known theatre entrepreneur. The four-story terra cotta concrete and steel building was built with the hope of showing silent films and vaudeville. Vaudeville performances centered around burlesque, singing and dancing with a healthy dose of comedy thrown into the mix. Such shows were incredibly popular during the early 20th century, and the Lucas Theatre remained permanently busy.
In 1976, however, the once-prized theatre faced possible demolishment. It was purchased and modernized and still remains today as one of the most beautiful and special locations while in Savannah. Check here for their upcoming schedule!
**For anyone interested in learning more about the Olde Pink House's haunted history (including poor old Habersham) check out our sister company's Grave Tales Ghost Tour, where the Olde Pink House is one of the stops along the way!
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